It looks like a kind of multicolored spider’s web
depicted in intimate interdependence with the bachelor zone, renders her as a metaphor for the general contingency of the human subject (just as, according to feminist psychoanalytic theory, feminine lack is a metaphoric repository for the lack in all human subjects). After all is said and done, as Bragdon’s and Duchamp’s theories of shadows suggest, we are all ephemeral smoke and mirrors, our bodies, even while tangible and living, perhaps only the shadows of “imaginary beings” we cannot know or comprehend. The shadow marks a fascination with the fragility and transience of corporeality, then, a fascination with death. In the Large Glass project, Duchamp explored as well the shadowlike mold, which is a kind of “negative (photographic) . . . apparition” of the object just as the shadow is its projection. The malic molds of the Large Glass are a masculine “group of . . . uniforms or hollow liveries destined to give to/receive the illuminating gas.” They serve as armatures for “gas castings” that listen to the song of the “whole celibate machine” residing in the bottom of the Large Glass.157 The malic molds are empty vessels, empty uniforms: they are perhaps the uniforms that Duchamp does not wear as a noncombatant. They are the emasculated “gas castings” whose ?atulent, pointless actions parallel the dysfunctional machinery of the bride up above (and in fact, as we have seen, their emasculation is explicitly noted: “Each of the 8 malic forms is cut by an imaginary horizontal plane at a pnt. of sex.”).158 The shadow/mold, then, is also a hollow vessel, vaguely phallic in shape but hollow and gassed, castrated at the “pnt. of sex.” The 1918 photograph Shadows of Readymades, a picture of shadows cast by the readymades onto the wall of Duchamp’s studio in the Arensbergs’ apartment building, serves as an ultimate statement on shadows (notably, these shadows provided the template for Duchamp to paint the readymades’ shadows onto Tu m’ that same year; ?g. 2.22). The most striking shadow at the center of the photograph (probably taken by Man Ray) is that of the now lost Sculpture for Traveling, 1918. Duchamp constructed this collapsible rubber “sculpture”: “I bought some [of those rubber bathing caps that come in all colors], cut them up into uneven little strips, stuck them together, not ?at, in the middle of my studio (in the air) and attached them with string to the various walls and nails in my studio. ”159 Duchamp took it with him to Buenos Aires when, he went there in August of 1918 to escape the heat of a culture that was increasingly war-obsessed.
Called the pnt
2.p and/or Man Ray?, Shadows of Readymades, 1918; photograph. © 2002 Succession Marcel Duch Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.
The Sculpture for Traveling, which could take on myriad forms according to how its ends were tied around the room, is an antimonument, a potentially ?accid (or, when tied up, taut) sketch in negative space. It is a “spider’s web,” a net ready to trap its (male?) victims. Its cast shadow, in Shadows of Readymades, accentuates its simultaneous linearity and lack of volume-as well as its refusal to stand in for the human form, as traditional sculpture is wont to do. The shadow of a piece that is already a wraithlike apparition (but potentially menacing as it stretches across the viewer’s path) is doubly p’s absence from the front was in a sense doubled by his retreat to Buenos Aires.